“What does this sad little brook say, mother?” inquired she.
“What does the sad little brook say, mother?” she asked.
“If thou hadst a sorrow of thine own, the brook might tell thee of it,”
answered her mother, “even as it is telling me of mine! But now, Pearl, I hear a
footstep along the path, and the noise of one putting aside the branches. I
would have thee betake thyself to play, and leave me to speak with him that
“If you had a sorrow of your own, the brook might speak about it,” answered
her mother, “even as it is speaking to me about mine. But I hear a footstep
along the path, and the sound of someone pushing branches aside. Go play and
leave me to speak with the man coming this way.”
“Is it the Black Man?” asked Pearl.
“Is it the Black Man?” asked Pearl.
“Wilt thou go and play, child?” repeated her mother. “But do not stray far
into the wood. And take heed that thou come at my first call.”
“Will you go and play, child?” her mother repeated. “But don’t wander far into
the wood. And take care that you come at my first call.”
“Yes, mother,” answered Pearl. “But, if it be the Black Man, wilt thou not let
me stay a moment, and look at him, with his big book under his arm?”
“Yes, mother,” answered Pearl. “But if it is the Black Man, would you let me
stay a moment and look at him, with his big book under his arm?”
“Go, silly child!” said her mother, impatiently. “It is no Black Man! Thou
canst see him now through the trees. It is the minister!”
“Go, silly child,” her mother said impatiently. “It’s not the Black Man! You
can see him now, through the trees. It is the minister!”
“And so it is!” said the child. “And, mother, he has his hand over his heart!
Is it because, when the minister wrote his name in the book, the Black Man set
his mark in that place? But why does he not wear it outside his bosom, as thou
“Yes it is!” said the child. “And, mother, he has his hand over his heart! Did
the Black Man make his mark there when the minister wrote his name in the book?
And why doesn’t he wear the mark outside his chest, as you do, mother?”
“Go now, child, and thou shalt tease me as thou wilt another time” cried
Hester Prynne. “But do not stray far. Keep where thou canst hear the babble of
“Go, child, and tease me another time,” cried Hester Prynne. “But do not go
far. Stay where you can hear the babble of the brook.”
The child went singing away, following up the current of the brook, and
striving to mingle a more lightsome cadence with its melancholy voice. But the
little stream would not be comforted, and still kept telling its unintelligible
secret of some very mournful mystery that had happened—or making a prophetic
lamentation about something that was yet to happen—within the verge of the
dismal forest. So Pearl, who had enough of shadow in her own little life, chose
to break off all acquaintance with this repining brook. She set herself,
therefore, to gathering violets and wood-anemones, and some scarlet columbines
that she found growing in the crevices of a high rock.
The child went singing away, following the current of the brook and trying to
mix a happier sound into its sad voice. But the little stream would not be
comforted. It kept telling its garbled secret of some mournful mystery or making
a sad prophecy about something that would happen within the dismal forest. So
Pearl, who had enough sadness in her own little life, broke off her friendship
with the brook. She went about gathering flowers that she found growing in the
crack of a high rock.
When her elf-child had departed, Hester Prynne made a step or two towards the
track that led through the forest, but still remained under the deep shadow of
the trees. She beheld the minister advancing along the path, entirely alone, and
leaning on a staff which he had cut by the way-side. He looked haggard and
feeble, and betrayed a nerveless despondency in his air, which had never so
remarkably characterized him in his walks about the settlement, nor in any other
situation where he deemed himself liable to notice. Here it was wofully visible,
in this intense seclusion of the forest, which of itself would have been a heavy
trial to the spirits. There was a listlessness in his gait; as if he saw no
reason for taking one step farther, nor felt any desire to do so, but would have
been glad, could he be glad of any thing, to fling himself down at the root of
the nearest tree, and lie there passive for evermore. The leaves might bestrew
him, and the soil gradually accumulate and form a little hillock over his frame,
no matter whether there were life in it or no. Death was too definite an object
to be wished for, or avoided.
When her elf-child had left, Hester Prynne took a few steps toward the forest
path but remained under the deep shadow of the trees. She saw the minister
walking alone on the path and leaning on a rough staff made from a branch he had
cut along the way. He looked worn and weak. He gave an impression of nervous
despair, which had never been apparent when he walked around the village, nor
any other place where he thought he might be seen. In the intense isolation of
the forest, which itself would have depressed the spirits, his despair was sadly
visible. There was an exhausted quality to his steps, as though he saw no reason
to take another, nor felt any desire to do so. It seemed that he would have been
glad—had he been glad of anything—to throw himself down at the root of the
nearest tree and lie there, motionless, forever. The leaves might cover him, and
the soil gradually form a little hill over his body, whether there was life in
it or not. Death was too concrete a goal to be either wished for or
To Hester’s eye, the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale exhibited no symptom of positive
and vivacious suffering, except that, as little Pearl had remarked, he kept his
hand over his heart.
To Hester’s eye, the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale showed no sign of active, lively
suffering—except that, as little Pearl had noticed, he kept his hand over his